How to spot a liar

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Lawyer up and don’t say anything. No matter how innocent you are. Never talk to the police.


You nailed it.

What is also striking is that police and prosecutors threw the book at him after he and his mother cooperated with their request to examine his cellphone.

Turley on North Carolina Sexting Case


Most of the techniques the article suggests don’t need evidence because they’re logically tautological – you’ve exposed a mistruth if there’s a contradiction (although this doesn’t prove that the person’s a liar, as they could have misremembered or made a mistake or gotten confused at your tricky questioning style).

But this one

Observe changes in confidence. Watch carefully to see how a potential liar’s style changes when they are challenged

Seems to fall under the same pseudoscientific umbrella as the ones being dismissed. Is there actual evidence that this works? Does it rely on “gut feeling?”

Their reasonable dismissal of body language cues

there is no universal dictionary of body language. “There are no consistent signs that always arise alongside deception,” says Ormerod, who is based at the University of Sussex. “I giggle nervously, others become more serious, some make eye contact, some avoid it.”

is then dismissed

Observe changes in confidence. Watch carefully to see how a potential liar’s style changes when they are challenged: a liar may be just as verbose when they feel in charge of a conversation, but their comfort zone is limited and they may clam up if they feel like they are losing control.

…or a person may act differently when they feel like the other person is doubting them or pressuring them.


Why are you being so defensive? Nobody’s accusing you of anything. Now start at the beginning and explain that again, okay?


New York. - six weeks ago. A truck loaded with stripped gun parts got jacked outside of Queens. The driver didn’t see anybody, but somebody fucked up. He heard a voice. Sometimes, that’s all you need.


I just watch for them to cover their forehead…


I look for the 666 tattooed on the neck, then I know they’re lying!


I had someone come by my house the other day and ask to mow my lawn in exchange for a donation to a local high school car mechanic program. I was pretty instantly convinced the donation thing was a lie but had no real evidence. People had come by previously and offered to mow it. Their claim had been it was their mother’s birthday and they wanted to buy her a gift. I always suspect any story that asks for money at the end if the beginning isn’t “I wanted to make some money, so…” His willingness to accept cash, making the ask alone and on a Saturday also seemed out of the ordinary for such things. His hands were greasy so he either was in a real program or worked on cars for a living/hobby.

This kid complimented my car and house repeatedly in the conversation. He told some of his back story about being from Russia and living nearby.

I let him mow my lawn for what I thought was a fair fee. It needed it and it was hot out so I didn’t want to do it.

I never showed interest in the program/charity and always responded to his compliments with as much deadpan as I could muster.

I think if there are true tells in this sort of circumstance its about spotting technique rather than body language. Sure asking them questions that make them make things up on the spot can help but the whole thing with a confidence game is that if you present the lie with speed and confidence people with accept your lie to avoid the uncomfortable situation of challenging it without evidence. Asking random detail questions is just as much calling out a lie as saying, “This sounds like a lie.” I think a better tell would be to spot practices that someone doing a con might frequently use. Such as using compliments that build rapport but seem out of place, forcing quick decisions, offering lots of detail on some other subject to change the subject from the lie, etc. Invading space in a friendly way to make the subject feel nervous but not threatened (lots of handshakes and close talking).

If people went into conversations armed with some red flags used to sell untruths they might spot a few and take the step of saying they don’t believe the story.


Is that the one about the, uh, hooker with the dysentery?

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What works, as any novelist knows: make them talk and watch for change.

Any parent, too.

Next you’ll be telling me that Bene Gesserit truthsaying powers are only fictional.




Neck tattoos, in general, are pretty strong indicators of… things

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I would also say that really the best way to spot a lie is to elicit the liar to expose their intent through silence.

If I tell you I have a Lamborghini and I actually have one I am telling you to further a story or impress you.

If I tell you I have a Lamborghini and I don’t, then my intent is likely to convince you that I have one because convincing you serves some hidden purpose.

If you are silent or uninterested when I mention it I will either continue the story, brag about other things, or further try to convince you I own a lambo. The last one points to a liar.


Start playing poker, and then play a lot of it. That will seriously improve your lie detection skills. Also, read Mike Caro’s Book of Poker Tells. Even though it’s in the context of poker, a lot of it applies in other situations too.

Hard to distinguish from a FACEPALM

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Aw man, how did they know?? There’s something about shaving my beard that makes me just lie all the time.


“Did you just shave?”


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One thing I’ve done before is to alternate between relevant and irrelevant questions. At first the liar will play along, but after a few questions, eventually, he’ll run out of answers or start taking more time thinking of a lie.